Blue Origin will launch Ed Dwight, the 1st-ever Black astronaut candidate, to space on next New Shepard rocket flight

a white rocket launches into a blue sky
Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket lifts with the NS-21 crew from Launch Site One in West Texas on June 4, 2022. (Image credit: Blue Origin)

We now know who will be on board for Blue Origin's first crewed spaceflight since August 2022.

Today (April 4), Jeff Bezos' company announced the six crewmembers for the NS-25 space tourism mission, which will lift off from Blue Origin's West Texas site in the relatively near future. (The target date has not yet been revealed.)

Among the six are former U.S. Air Force Capt. Ed Dwight, who was selected as the nation's first Black astronaut candidate back in 1961, according to Blue Origin.

Related: Facts about New Shepard, Blue Origin's rocket for space tourism

The crew of Blue Origin's upcoming NS-25 suborbital mission. (Image credit: Blue Origin)

"In 1961, Ed was chosen by President John F. Kennedy to enter training at the Aerospace Research Pilot School (ARPS), an elite U.S. Air Force flight training program known as a pathway for entering the NASA Astronaut Corps," Blue Origin wrote in an update today. "In 1963, after successfully completing the ARPS program, Ed was recommended by the U.S. Air Force for the NASA Astronaut Corps but ultimately was not among those selected."

Robert Lawrence was the first Black astronaut selected for a space program — the U.S. Air Force's Manned Orbiting Laboratory, or MOL, a planned spy outpost in Earth orbit that was never built. Lawrence was picked in June 1967, but he died six months later in a supersonic jet crash. The first Black American astronaut to reach space was Guion Bluford, who flew on the STS-8 mission of the space shuttle Challenger in 1983.

Dwight, who was born in 1933, became an entrepreneur and then a sculptor focusing on iconic figures in Black history. Over the past five decades, he has created more than 130 public works, which are featured in museums and other spaces across the U.S. and Canada, according to Blue Origin. His seat on the mission is sponsored by the nonprofit Space For Humanity.

The other five NS-25 crewmembers are venture capitalist Mason Angel; Sylvain Chiron, the founder of French craft brewery Brasserie Mont Blanc; software engineer and entrepreneur Kenneth L. Hess; retired accountant Carol Schaller; and Gopi Thotakura, a pilot and aviator who co-founded Preserve Life Corp., a holistic wellness and health center in Georgia.

You can read more about each of the crewmembers here.

The NS-25 crew will fly aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard vehicle, a reusable rocket-capsule combo that takes passengers on brief trips to suborbital space. As its name suggests, NS-25 will be the 25th overall mission for New Shepard, which conducts robotic research flights as well as tourism jaunts.

New Shepard suffered an anomaly during NS-23, an uncrewed flight that launched in September 2022. The first-stage rocket was destroyed, but the upper-stage capsule landed safely under parachutes.

The accident, which Blue Origin traced to a "thermo-structural failure" of the nozzle on the first stage's single BE-3PM engine, kept New Shepard grounded for more than a year. The suborbital vehicle returned to flight this past December with an uncrewed mission.

NS-25 will be the first New Shepard launch since that December 2023 flight, and the first crewed mission for the vehicle since NS-22 in August 2022.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.

  • philbundy
    Admin said:
    The six-person crew of Blue Origin's seventh human spaceflight includes Ed Dwight, who was picked in 1961 to be the nation's first black astronaut candidate.

    Blue Origin will launch Ed Dwight, the 1st-ever Black astronaut candidate, to space on next New Shepard rocket flight : Read more
    Had me scared for a second when it said astronaut I thought they were going to put him on the New Glenn and I don't trust them BE-4 engines
  • solipsist
    Ride on that thing? I'd rather stick to close proximity base jumping.